Dien Bien Phu
|Dien Bien Phu
Thành phố Điện Biên Phủ
|— Provincial capital —|
Điện Biên Phủ ( listen) is a city in northwestern Vietnam. It is the capital of Điện Biên Province. The city is best known for the events which occurred there during the First Indochina War, the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, during which the region was a breadbasket for the Việt Minh. The city was formally called Thaeng.
Statistics on Điện Biên Phủ's population vary depending on definitions—figures are generally between 70,000 and 125,000. The city is growing quickly, and is projected to have a population of 150,000 by 2020. The majority of the population is not ethnically Vietnamese—rather, Thai ethnic groups form the largest segment. Ethnic Vietnamese make up around a third of the population, with the remainder being Hmong, Si La, or others.
Location within Vietnam 
Điện Biên Phủ lies in Muong Thanh valley, a 20-km-long and 6-km-wide basin sometimes described as "heart-shaped." It is on the western edge of Điện Biên Province, of which it is the capital, and is only a short distance from the border with Laos. Until the creation of the province in 2004, it was part of the province of Lai Châu. The Vietnamese government elevated Điện Biên Phủ to town status in 1992, and to city status in 2003.
Operation Castor (1953) 
In the 1950s, the town was known not only for its famous opium traffic, generating 500,000,000 French francs annually, but more so for a fierce battle that would result in a major realignment of world geopolitics. It was also an extensive source of rice for the Việt Minh.
The region was fortified in November 1953 by the French Union force in the biggest airborne operation of the 1946-1954 First Indochina War, Operation Castor, to block Việt Minh transport routes and to set the stage to draw out Việt Minh forces.
Siege of Điện Biên Phủ (1954) 
The following year, the important Battle of Điện Biên Phủ was fought between the Việt Minh (led by General Võ Nguyên Giáp), and the French Union (led by General Henri Navarre, successor to General Raoul Salan). The siege of the French garrison lasted fifty-seven days, from 17:30, 13 March to 17:30, 7 May 1954. The southern outpost or fire base of "Camp Isabelle" did not follow the cease-fire order and fought until 01:00, a few hours before the long-scheduled Geneva Meeting's Indochina conference involving the United States, the UK, the French Union and the USSR.
The battle was significant beyond the valleys of Điện Biên Phủ. Giáp's victory ended major French involvement in Indochina and led to the accords which partitioned Vietnam into North and South. Eventually, these conditions inspired the United States to increase their involvement in Vietnam leading to the Second Indochina War.
The battle of Điện Biên Phủ is described by historians as "the first time that a non-European colonial independence movement had evolved through all the stages from guerrilla bands to a conventionally organized and equipped army able to defeat a modern Western occupier in pitched battle".
The Western fear of a Communist extension in Southeast Asia, named the Domino Theory by Dwight D. Eisenhower during the siege of Điện Biên Phủ and the departure of the French from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, was a factor leading to the direct American intervention in South Vietnam.
See also 
- Điện Biên Phủ: Development and Conservation in a Vietnamese Cultural Landscape, William Logan, 2005
- The Last Valley, Martin Windrow, 2004
- Quotation from Martin Windrow. Kenney, Michael. "British Historian Takes a Brilliant Look at French Fall in Vietnam". Boston Globe, 4 January 2005.
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- (French) The situation of Điện Biên Phủ, 50 years after the battle (French news, public channel France 2, 5 May 2004)